Chilean co-founders of Archdaily.com, David Basulto and David Assael, spoke to This is Chile about the need to bring people closer to architectural developments in their cities, how they select their website content and the future of architecture in developing countries.
The site includes interviews, articles on current architectural thought, information on public competitions and more. David Assael, one of the founders, shared how they succeeded in nurturing their university hobby into the world’s most-visited architecture website.
“It came naturally. We’ve been working non-stop on what we’re passionate about for over five years,” Assael said. “Most people can’t decide what it is they want to do and end up spreading their efforts too thin. But if you focus on one thing and do it really well, you won’t fail.”
Assael and Basulto were inspired to develop the architecture platform while studying at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile (UC). In fact, their offices are located just opposite the architecture department from which both graduated. They soon decided the site would be the sole focus of their careers.
“The internet gave us the opportunity to impact a much larger group of people, all over the world, in a very direct way. It was an opportunity we had to take,” Basulto said.
Now, six years on, with 250,000 daily visits and 50,000,000 pageviews a month, the site is the most popular source for worldwide architecture news. A global version was initially launched in English only, but versions have since been developed specifically for Mexico, Brazil and the US, with ambitious plans underway to create Archdaily China.
A favorite with students and architecture firms alike, the platform features the latest architectural creations from across the globe, always accompanied by vivid photographs and meticulous drawings, provided by the designing architects themselves.
The office where the multi-background team of architects, engineers, designers and journalists works together has an aura of a “work hard play hard” environment.
“We sometimes have Yoga and Pilates classes here too,” Basulto remarked with a smile.
On one of the white walls of the room, printed clearly in black, is their mission statement, something that cropped up repeatedly in our discussions.
“Our mission is to improve the quality of life of the 3 billion people that will move into cities in the next 40 years, by providing inspiration, knowledge and tools to the architects who have the challenge to design for them.”
The founders of the site revealed that this idea was inspired by a variety of factors, but their main goal was simple.
“We realized that citizens around the world were unaware of upcoming constructions in their own cities, projects that would impact their everyday lives,” Basulto told This is Chile. “This information was not readily or easily accessible, so we wanted to give people the opportunity to gain knowledge and bring them closer to an understanding of their own cities and beyond.”
To this end, Archdaily content is not based on singling out aesthetically pleasing structures but rather on publishing all projects of significance, something that they claim traditional architecture and design publications tend to omit.
“We have a responsibility to expand people’s horizons by offering a wide variety of knowledge and resources, in order to give a comprehensive view of the current architectural landscape. We don’t only focus on ‘pretty’ projects, like beachside villas or astonishing museums, but also include less ‘sexy’ schemes, such as airports or hospitals,” Basulto said.
The projects that are ultimately published are selected by the editorial team using a variety of criteria, such as how innovative a project is in its category, its budget, its sustainability and impact on the community at large.
Chilean architecture firm Elemental, led by Alejandro Aravena, who have won recognition for their work on social housing design, were one of the prime examples given by Archdaily as having a positive community influence.
Although Archdaily has a global outreach, it frequently publishes Latin American and Chilean architecture. They believe that the center of architecture is shifting, spreading towards developing countries. As urbanization is particularly accelerating in developing countries, the focus of architecture should spread proportionately.
“Only by understanding all the changes and innovations coming from the developing countries will architects in the developed world go forward and innovate themselves,” Basulto said.
By Daphne Karnezis
With special thanks to David Basulto, David Assael and George Mitzalis.